Indonesian Borneo

Pontianak, Kalimantan, Indonesia

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Interactive Google Maps Location Pontianak

Pontianak is the capital of West Kalimantan (Kalimantan Barat) a trading port (one of the many) on the island of Borneo. Borneo consists of three main parts, Malaysian Borneo which covers around a third of the Island, Indonesian which covers two thirds and a small portion surrounded by Malaysian Borneo which is Brunei. Borneo is the third largest Island in the world with a total area of 748,168 km2 or 288,869 sq miles.

Pontianak located on the Kapuas River delta

Pontianak is a fascinating place photographically speaking being so vibrant and full of life but that is Indonesia in general for you! Situated at the confluence on the Kapuas River delta it is an extremely interesting place regarding river life and this is one of the main draws here. There are a number of markets very near the riverside on the south side and close to the centre of town which is a prime position for collecting or sending goods from the boats which are constantly coming and going to various places up and down river and these boats also double as passenger boats. wether it be covering quite a distance or just crossing to the otherside.

There are a number of ways for getting to or from Pontianak which I will go into in Getting there and Away

Minor cargo and passenger boats

Not only that there are also huge wooden boats functioning as long distance cargo boats and houseboats too for the crew who venture up the Kapuas River (Sungai Kapuas) which takes 8 days to cover around 800km's to reach Putussibau an Iban dayak town home to native peoples of Kalimantan and the world famous and unique long houses some of which are 200m long.

Kapuas River cargo only boat

Captain contemplates the eight day boat journey to Putussibau

Cargo cum Houseboats at the Docks

The crew generally take upto three days to load up these monster freight carriers whereby the captain takes stock of everything that goes onboard. The shipment contains just about everything you can imagine from cement and other building materials to beds, wardrobes, kitchen utensils, sacks of rice, pots and pans and the list goes on and on as these boats are going to remote out of the way places. Even if travelling by road where it is possible don't expect an easy time of it, the roads are rough. Borneo is home to one of the biggest rainforest areas in the world and much of the Indonesian part is still largely remote and difficult to access hence the main mode of transport is via a variety of boats.

Loading Putussibau freight boats

Tugu Khatulistiwa - Equator Monument

Pontianak also straddles the Equator, north of the River Kapuas you can find the Equator monument and have one foot in the northern hemisphere and one foot in the southern hemisphere at the same time. Inside the building that now houses the original monument you will find hanging frame pictures of it's progression through the years.

On March 31st 1928 there was an International expedition led by a Dutch geographer to Pontianak to determine the equator with the construction as follows:

a. The first monument built in 1928 in the form of milestone with arrows.
b. 1930 refined, shaped and milestones with a circle of arrows.
c. 1938 was rebuilt with improvements. The original monument can be seen on the inside.

                     Equator Monument in 1951                                     Equator Monument in 2014

In 1990 the Equator monument was renovated with the manufacture of the dome to protect the original monument and the making of a duplicate monument five times larger than the original monument. Inauguration was on 21st September 1991 and this is how it remains for now!

Panning shot of another popular mode of transport around Pontianak

Pontianak city itself is a fast moving place especially regarding traffic and motorbikes especially but tucked away in the backstreets you can find the local tinkers, mechanics, electricians, craftsman etc which is somewhat like stepping back in time.

Pontianak backstreets

Waste not want not

Backstreet Boys


Back over the river on the northside there is a lovely kampung (village) on stilts. Traditional wooden houses built on wooden pillars above the water. The kampung is surrounded by canals which the locals use to bathe in, wash clothes and use small boats to get around the place. People are very friendly and if you want to take a trip through the channels and around the village I got the impression the locals would accompany you for a little cash.

Village on stilts

The little people of Pontianak

Peace Man!

Village Boats

Not far from the village on stilts is the Pontianak Kraton, (also spelt Keraton), and is the former royal residence now like a museum piece. The building is around 200 years old and built mainly out of hardwood and painted yellow at present. The condition is pristine.

Indon Kids at Pontianak Kraton

Pontianak Kraton

Getting There and Away

Getting to or from Pontianak is very easy with a wide variety of options. direct flights from Kuching in Sarawak from 600,000IDR or 160rm , from Kuala Lumpur, Singapore and all domestic flights from Indonesia.

Pelni Ferries take around 24hrs to or from Jakarta, Semarang and Surabaya in Java. Pelni also go to Banjarmasin and Samarinda in Kalimantan and on to Sulawesi etc.

Coaches go frequently from Pontianak to Kuching in Malaysian Sarawak costing as little as 240,000 IDR or 60rm in Malay ringgit. The trip takes between 9-12hrs and the night coach is only available from Pontianak to Kuching which arrives at Entikong (Indo/Malay border) at 6am opening time. There is no night bus from Kuching to Pontianak because the border is only one and half hour away from Kuching and the border would be closed so the last bus leaves at 1.30pm and arrives in Pontianak around 10.30pm.

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